THERE’S a term biologists and economists use these days — ecosystem services — which refers to the many ways nature supports the human endeavor. Forests filter the water we drink, for example, and birds and bees pollinate crops, both of which have substantial economic as well as biological value.
If we fail to understand and take care of the natural world, it can cause a breakdown of these systems and come back to haunt us in ways we know little about. A critical example is a developing model of infectious disease that shows that most epidemics — AIDS, Ebola, West Nile, SARS, Lyme disease and hundreds more that have occurred over the last several decades — don’t just happen. They are a result of things people do to nature.
Disease, it turns out, is largely an environmental issue. Sixty percent of emerging infectious diseases that affect humans are zoonotic — they originate in animals. And more than two-thirds of those originate in wildlife.
Mostly talking about the human-animal (wild) interaction and how this can introduce new diseases. I noted this:
But emerging diseases have quadrupled in the last half-century, experts say, largely because of increasing human encroachment into habitat, especially in disease “hot spots” around the globe, mostly in tropical regions.
Well, yeah, but humans were deeply embedded in ‘animal habitats’ for millennia in the form of hunter-gatherers. And my reading suggests that much of the morbidity and mortality associated with HGs involved zoonotic diseases transmitted by the animals they interacted with either by hunting or incidentally. And, one would imagine, even in early sedentary communities there would have been quite a bit of interaction with wildlife via hunting — many early agriculturalists still hunted — and by way of relations with still-extant HGs.